Palestinians prepare to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the Nakba, which means the catastrophe in Arabic, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced to leave their lands and homes in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.
An estimated 10,000 Palestinian refugees remain living in the Aqabit Jaber refugee camp in Jericho on the West Bank hoping that they can return back to their lands and homes following the Nakba.
Ratiba Abed al-Hadi, 85, is one of the 1948 refugees who have lived in lifelong misery in the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp.
“We cannot leave this key, it is now with me and I will give it to my children, who will give it to their children and grandchildren, so our land will stay in our minds and we will not forget,” she said, as she held on to a key.
There are about five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants now living in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, with over 1.3 million of them registered as living in refugee camps, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Head of UNWRA office in Jericho, Essam Adeb, says the relief organization will continue its charity work for as long as it was able to do so despite the political situation.
“As long as it is authorized to UNRWA to work in the area where there are refugees, it will keep offering these services despite the political situation,” Adeb said.
Some people born in the refugee camp keep the furniture and the keys that once belonged to their parents who brought them when they fled their homes and villages as a record to pass on to succeeding generations.
“We work in a committee to collect heritage furniture, so we can preserve it to show it to as much of the new generation (as possible), to show them what our parents used to use before 1948 war,” said Salah Alsamhuri, from the Aqabat Jaber Refugee Camp who collects old furniture.
Young refugees say they will not forget their “right to return” to their ancestral homes and hope to go back to their families’ homes again.
Temporary peace agreements between Palestinians and Israel have often overlooked the issue of the return of refugees. The issue of refugees, which has been in the limelight on both the regional and international levels, is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict and has for decades remained unresolved.
Palestinians continue to say they have the right to return to their homes and their land from which their fathers and grandfathers fled when Israel was established in 1948.
However, Israel rejects the idea of allowing any Palestinian refugees to return to the Jewish State.